One week after announcing Pete Vordenberg’s resignation as the U.S. Ski Team (USST) men’s coach, the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) revealed Jason Cork as the newest member of the its coaching staff on Tuesday. Cork recently wrapped up a dominant domestic season as the head coach of the Central Cross Country (CXC) elite team.
According to the USSA press release, Cork will be an assistant coach, and will work primarily with the men’s World Cup team under head coach Chris Grover, who will serve as the interim men’s coach in the transition.
“Jason Cork has been an extremely influential coach both with Team CXC and the Durango Nordic Ski Club. This past season was a great example with the tremendous success of Team CXC athletes both domestically and internationally,” said Grover.
He is referring to the CXC Elite Team’s strong SuperTour season, in which it routinely placed skiers at the top of the podium. It’s star Jessie Diggins made a seamless transition from the SuperTour to the World Cup mid-winter, and had one of the most successful American debuts on the World Cup on record.
“Working with CXC Team was a great experience,” said Cork. “Coaching some of America’s fastest skiers taught me a lot. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work with the U.S. Ski Team had CXC not given me the opportunity to join its team where I learned more about training and racing at a higher level. I’m excited for my new job, but will miss the daily interactions with CXC’s many athletes, coaches, supporters, fans and staff.”
Before joining CXC’s coaching staff, Cork was an assistant coach at Michigan Tech and coached at the Durango Nordic Ski Club in Colorado, where he worked with USST member Tad Elliott.
According to Grover, Cork’s familiarity with athletes on the USST made him a natural pick to replace Vordenberg. During the World Cup season, he joined the USST in Nove Mesto, Czech Republic and Szklarska Poreba, Poland to help the staff support US athletes there.
“He…helped out the team when we were a bit understaffed and he did a fantastic job,” said Grover. “He was somebody that really integrated super well into our coaching staff and into our service team.”
The search began a week ago when Vordenberg indicated he would no longer be coaching the men’s team, but replacement of coaching staff is an eventuality that Grover said the team is always thinking about.
“We definitely had our eye on Jason for a while, so when Pete stepped down earlier last week, Jason was one of the first calls. But it’s a tough situation for CXC. Our gain with Jason is CXC’s loss, for sure” said Grover.
CXC junior coach Igor Badamshin, a Russian World Championship medalist, will take over coaching the CXC Elite Team. In a community as small as US skiing, Grover noted that the pool of qualified replacements for national team coaches is even smaller, and inevitably they draw from existing club-level candidates.
“There’s just so few senior programs out there that when you go to look for a coach and somebody that has great experience coaching senior athletes, then the list becomes somewhat narrow and you end up pulling someone like Jason from a club that’s really benefited from having him in that leadership position.”
Specifically for the current US men’s team, who for the most part have personal coaches on top the USST coaches, Grover said they were looking for someone knowledgeable and personable who could bring together the pieces involved in supporting each individual athlete, which involves communicating well with personal coaches and sports science staff to “make sure that everyone’s working on the same page. With Jason we really felt that those were skill sets that we could see in abundance with him.”
Alex Matthews contributed reporting.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.